Eighteen Treatises from the Mishna, by D. A. Sola and M. J. Raphall, , at sacred-texts.com
§ 1. When a woman departed with her husband to a distant country, and they had there lived peaceably together, and peace also prevailed in the world, should the woman return and say, "My husband died [abroad]," she may marry again, or in case of Yeboom, be married accordingly to her late husband's brother. Should this married couple have lived peacefully together, but that war had then prevailed in the world, or that they had disagreed with each other, but peace prevailed in the world, her evidence [of her husband's death] is not to receive credence. 1 R. Jehudah says, "She is in no
instance to be believed, except when she appears crying, and with rent garments." The sages said to him, "This is not of any consequence [whether she appears weeping or not], she may re-marry." 2
§ 2. Beth Hillel say, "We have heard this applied only in a certain case, where the woman came back from harvest, and in the province only in which the occurrence 3 took place." But Beth Shammai replied to Beth Hillel, "It is immaterial whether the woman came back from wheat harvest, olive gathering, the vintage, or from another country; the word 'harvest' was used by the sages for no other reason, than because the occurrence thus happened." Then Beth Hillel abandoned their former opinion, and adopted that of Beth Shammai.
§ 3. According to Beth Shammai, such a woman may marry again, and receive the amount of her Ketubah, but Beth Hillel hold, she may marry, but has no claim to her Ketubah. Beth Shammai said unto them, "You permitted [the possible case of the commission of] the grave sin of adultery, 4 and yet you refuse your permission in money matters, 5 which are of such minor importance." Beth Hillel replied, "[We decided thus,] because we find that her husband's brothers cannot succeed to the estate of their deceased brother on her unsupported evidence." Beth Shammai answered, "The sum which her husband promised her we learn from her marriage-contract. 6 For thus it is there stated: 'In case thou shouldst marry another husband, thou art to receive what is here assigned to thee.'" Then Beth Hillel abandoned their former opinion, and taught like Beth Shammai.
§ 4. Every one is deemed a trustworthy witness to testify to a woman, concerning her husband's decease, except her mother-in-law, the daughter of the latter, her own rival, her sister-in-law, or her husband's [or step] daughter. 7 Why is this distinction made between the evidence [of a wife] who alleges to have received a divorce from her husband, and one who bears witness to his decease?—Because the written document 8 proves the matter [more satisfactorily]. If one witness said, "Your husband is dead," upon which the widow received permission to marry again, though another witness should subsequently contradict this evidence, and say, "Your husband is not dead," she does not lose her right to re-marry, but when a witness, [incompetent to give evidence] should say, "He is dead," and two witnesses [in the same predicament] should afterwards say, "He is not dead," she must even when she was already married [upon the first evidence], have that [last] marriage dissolved. When two [such] witnesses say, "He is dead," and another [such] says, "He is not dead," then, even when she did not marry upon the evidence of the first-mentioned, she may marry after, notwithstanding the last evidence.
§ 5. When one [of two wives coming from a distant country] says, "Our husband is dead," and the other, "He is not dead," she, who averred to his decease, may marry again, and is entitled to the sum assigned to her in her Ketubah, but she who made the contrary averment, may neither marry, nor is entitled to the amount of her Ketubah. When one wife declared their husband died [naturally], the other, that he was murdered, R. Meir holds that they may not marry, owing to this discrepance in their evidence, but R. Jehudah and R. Simeon opine, that since both agree in the fact of his being no longer alive, they may marry again. Should one witness say, "The man is dead," and another testify to the contrary effect, or that one woman says, "He is dead," and another, "He is not dead," the wife may not marry again [upon this evidence].
§ 6. When a woman and her husband had gone to a distant country, and the woman returns, and says, "My husband is dead," she may marry again, and is entitled to the amount of her marriage contract, but her rival may not re-marry [upon her evidence
alone]. If this latter is an Israelitess married to a priest, she may, according to R. Tarphon, continue to eat heave, but R. Akivah says, "This is not the proper way to keep her from transgression. She must be prohibited to marry, and also to eat heave [any longer]."
§ 7. Should a wife say, "My husband died first, and my father-in-law afterwards," she is entitled to marry again, and to receive the amount of her Ketubah, but not her mother-in-law, and if this latter was an Israelitess married to a priest, she may, according to R. Tarphon, continue to eat heave; but R. Akivah saith, "This is not the proper way to keep her from transgression. She must be prohibited to re-marry, and also to eat heave." If a person had betrothed one of five women, and did not know with certainty which of them he had betrothed, and each of these women claims to be the betrothed one, he must give a Get to each, and deposit the amount of a Ketubah, 9 when he has no further responsibility. Such is the dictum of R. Tarphon, but R. Akivah says, "This is not the proper way to preserve him from transgression. He must give a Get and the amount of a Ketubah to each woman." A thief who had robbed one of five persons, and does not know which, each of the five declaring that he was the person robbed, must deposit the amount of the theft [with the tribunal, for their decision], after which he has no further responsibility. Such is the dictum of R. Tarphon, but R. Akivah saith, "This is not the proper way to preserve him from transgression. He must pay to each the value of the theft."
§ 8. When a woman went with her husband and son to a distant country, and she returns and says, "My husband died first, and my son afterwards," she is to be believed, 10 but if she said, "My son died first, and afterwards my husband," she is not to receive entire credence for her words, and only in so far to be regarded, that she is only permitted to perform Chalitzah to her brother-in-law, but cannot be married to him by Yeboom.
§ 9. When she says, "A son was born unto me abroad, who died, and then my husband also died," she is to receive credence, but if she said, "My husband died first, and then my son," she is not to be credited, yet her words are so far regarded, that she is only permitted to receive Chalitzah from her brother-in-law, but cannot be married to him by Yeboom.
§ 10. If she says, "A brother-in-law was there born to me," 11 and adds, "My husband died first, and then my brother-in-law," or, "My brother-in-law died first, and then my husband," she is to be believed. If she went abroad with her husband and brother-in-law, and says on her return, "My husband died first, and then my brother-in-law," or, "My brother-in-law died first, and then my husband," she is not to be believed. For a woman is not entitled to full credence when she says, "My brother-in-law dies," as [it is possible] she makes that assertion only [to be permitted] to marry again. Neither when she says, "My sister died," so as to enable her to be married to her brother-in-law. A man also is not to be believed on his own assertion, when he says, "My wife died," as it is possible he may wish to marry her sister.
233:1 Because under the mentioned circumstances it is to be apprehended that she made this allegation to become separated from a husband with whom she disagreed, or that in time of war she might allege that which amounts only to p. 234 presumptive evidence as certain; ex. gr., if her husband promised her to return at a certain time, and did not, when she presumed him to have been slain, or that she saw him wounded, and thought he was killed, it being possible that he may yet return, or be cured.
234:2 For otherwise an artful woman who pretended to cry, &c. might have an undue advantage over an artless one.
234:3 This occurrence, to which frequent allusion is here made, was, that a man while engaged in the wheat harvest, was killed by the bite of a venomous snake. The wife alleged this to the Beth Din, and when on examination they found this allegation to be true, they permitted her to marry again, and decreed that henceforth the [unsupported] evidence of a wife may, in a similar case, be received as valid.
234:4 By granting her permission to re-marry, when her husband may perhaps be alive, and her evidence be a false one.
234:5 Namely, the amount of her Ketubah assigned to her at her marriage with the former husband.
234:6 That is, our opinion is founded on the very wording of the Ketubah.
235:7 Because these females are suspected of hearing her ill will, and may wish to bring her to shame.
235:8 Namely, the Get she alleges to have been written and signed in her presence.
236:9 With the Beth Din, and leave it to their decision to give it to her who may be best entitled to it.
236:10 And released from the law of Yeboom.
237:11 Namely, a brother of her husband, which subjects her to Yeboom.